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The story of Moses North, the first black man in the FVZA (Part I)

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. It's also the reason that the FVZA was far ahead of other U.S. agencies in when it came to racial integration. While the FBI didn't have a black agent until after World War I, and it took until 1961 for the Secret Service to assign a black man to a presidential detail, the Vanguard hired its first African American agent in 1870, just five years after the Civil War ended. His name was Moses North and his journey from slavery to a pioneering role in the FVZA is a testament to perseverance and courage.

Two men of the Hickory Regiment,
photographed in 1855.
(Library of Congress)

Moses North's entry into this world occurred sometime in the 1830s on the large cotton plantation of Hardy Durham in Georgia. North gave his birth date as July 4, 1837, but it's likely he never knew the actual day, as slave birth records were poorly kept. By then, the northern states had all abolished slavery, but the South held on stubbornly to the noxious practice. As the decades of the 1800s passed, it appeared that the issue was headed for a showdown, and it was looking more and more like it would be a bloody one.

Along with slavery, the South had another major problem on its hands at that time: vampires. The vampire population had been increasing with the population at large and by 1830 it numbered in the hundreds and possibly thousands. The rugged landscape of places like the Ozarks and the Blue Ridge Mountains provided thick woods and caves where vampires could hide. Packs often took possession of rural homes and used them as bases for nightly raids. Slave quarters at plantations were one of their preferred targets. The number of slaves lost to vampires is unknown, but it was likely more than 1,000.

For southern leaders, the situation was untenable. Their concern was based not in compassion but economics: Slaves were expensive and losing even a few to vampire packs could be enough to bankrupt a plantation.

To counter the threat, coalitions of political leaders and plantation owners organized armed bands of men known as night militias. Most of the militia members were indigent whites lured by the promise of a steady paycheck, albeit one that added up to only about 45 cents a day. Each state had its own vampire-fighting militia. In Moses North's home state of Georgia, the militia was known as the Hickory Regiment. Training was minimal and weaponry limited. Militias fought vampires mostly by smoking them out of their hiding places during the day and trapping them with nets. They were poorly trained, poorly armed, and plagued with gambling, drunkenness and high rates of desertion. As a result, the night militias had only a limited degree of effectiveness against disciplined vampires packs. If anything, their enduring legacy was to provide a case study in how not to run a vampire-fighting force.

It was in that backdrop that Moses North grew up. During his childhood, North's life was slightly less miserable than that of his fellow slaves. His mother worked as a house servant, and in his memoirs North recalled having a relatively sheltered childhood in which he befriended the master's children and spent hours reading books he had spirited away from the master's library. Still, he was not unaware of his place in the pecking order. "I saw that my clothes were ragged hand-me-downs," he wrote. "I saw that the quarters in which I slept were barren, with a leaky roof overhead. I saw that the mistress of the house regarded us with a mixture of suspicion and contempt, going so far as to spit on her leftover food to ensure that we did not try to eat it."

North's status changed when his mother died of tuberculosis just as he was entering adolescence. Before he even had time to mourn, he was put to work in the fields picking cotton. Both the slavemasters and the other slaves resented him for his relatively privileged upbringing and bullied him relentlessly. He worked more than 12 hours a day during the harvest season of late summer, stooped under the weight of the burlap sack on his back, his hands bloody from the sharp thorns of the cotton plants. He survived, he wrote, by learning to let his mind drift to the day when he would be free.

North's life began to improve as he grew out of his teenage years. He went through a growth spurt and ended up towering over most of the men, and when his lanky frame filled out he was simply too imposing for anyone to challenge.

Slaves quarters like these were
favorite hunting grounds for vampires.
(Library of Congress)

In his early twenties, North married a fellow slave named Emiline and settled into a routine of work spelled by occasional times of levity. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, while Emeline kept a garden. Increasingly, he dreamed of escaping the shackles of slavery and becoming a free man. So powerful was his dream that he secretly changed his surname from the master's name to "North" in recognition of the direction he one day intended to travel.

Outside the borders of the plantation. war clouds gathered. In April 1861, Confederate troops bombed Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The American Civil War had begun.

Most of the night militias were disbanded with the arrival of war, and vampire numbers in the South subsequently flourished. In 1863, shortly before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the Hardy Durham plantation drew the attention of a hunting pack. After two older slaves vanished in separate attacks, slaves begged the plantation overseers for weapons with which to defend themselves. Plantation owner Hardy Durham refused their request, fearful of a slave revolt. Moses North then took charge, assigning slaves to night watch and trading the fruits and vegetables from Emiline's garden to the Miccosukee, a local Native American tribe, for axes, knives and hatchets.

Despite these efforts, the vampires kept haunting the slaves quarters and one night, just after dusk, they snatched a girl from outside one of the cabins.

As darkness fell, North led a search party into the surrounding woods. The party, aided by a couple of men from the Miccosukee tribe, tracked the vampire pack to a cave a few miles east of the plantation. Standing at the mouth of the cave, North exhorted the other men to follow him inside, but the men were hesitant. Several suggested waiting until daybreak. A frustrated North finally went in by himself, armed only with a torch and an axe.

North moved quietly through a cave that was so narrow at points that he had to crawl on his stomach. Eventually, he reached a landing and saw signs of habitation, including carpets, bedding and a small library of books. He held the torch up to the wall and passed it over a large map of the area. Just as he leaned closer to investigate, a vampire leaped from the shadows. North wheeled around and split its skull with one swing of the axe. Three more vampires attacked and North dispatched them, his axe whistling through the air.

As he stood there, breathing heavily from the exertion, he heard the girl calling for help. He followed the sound of her voice to a deep, narrow pit. There, at the bottom, was the terrified girl. She was covered with scrapes, bumps and bruises but, miraculously, had not been bitten. The vampires apparently had thrown her down there with the intent of feeding on her later.

North helped the girl out of the pit and made his way back to the landing only to find himself facing three more vampires including the Alpha, a towering man in overalls. The three vampires closed in, the contours of their horrifying, leering faces etched in the torchlight, as North readied his axe and the girl cowered behind him and screamed. And then, just when things looked their bleakest, the men who had initially stayed behind at the cave entrance spilled into the space. Fighting side by side with North, they eliminated the remaining vampires.

The search party returned to the slaves' quarters, triumphant, only to discover the slaves in a state of panic. While the search party was gone, there had been another vampire attack, this one coming from the direction of Hardy Durham's mansion. North immediately thought of Emiline. He burst into his cabin. There, in the firelight, he saw that she was gone. He searched the grounds, calling out for her, but there was no reply.

Coming Soon: Part II

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